South Asian Film Festival explores love, comedy and f ilmmaking

By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly

The 8th Annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival, presented by community organization Tasveer, brings together dozens of films from all over South Asia, from all genres, from horror to drama to film shorts.

Three interesting selections are “Miss Lovely,” ‘The Rajini Effect.” and “Valley of Saints.”

“Miss Lovely,” directed by Ashim Ahluwalia, opens the festival on Friday night, 7 p.m., at SIFF Cinema. The director originally intended a documentary film about Bollywood’s “C-grade” cinema, which would incorporate horror and pornography, and sometimes both. He found, however, that none of the participants in that scene were willing to talk on camera

His fictional take on C-grade cinema gives us an idea why its creators prefer to stay in the dark. The film chronicles the misadventures of two filmmaking brothers, Vicky (Anil George) and Sonu (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who stumble through early/mid-80s India trying to induce girls to strip for them, and then, sometimes, have blood dripped on them from a pulsing red monster head.

The gaudiness and decadence of the proceedings lend “Miss Lovely” some thrills, but it’s mostly a sad film about struggle, failure, loss and betrayal. People are not who they appear to be, and that is a fatalistic comment on cinema itself.

“The Rajini Effect,” directed by Kuvera Sivalingam and Nelson Sivalingam, covers a lot of Asian ground. It’s about a man who is obsessed with Indian movie star Rajinikath, and wants to be like him in all possible ways. He’s determined to make a film that will honor his idol and earn him a trip to India to become a star in his own right.

Nevermind that our hero is a Japanese man living with his elderly mother in England, that his “ace” movie director is an elderly Indian fellow stuck in an unhappy marriage, or that his “arch-enemy” is a homeless man full of anger, with a bizarre tick and quite possibly a few substance abuse problems.

“The Rajini Effect” is a warm comedy about people living their dreams and determined to live on their own terms. It isn’t terribly realistic, but it sketches characters quite well and draws its laughter out of their far-reaching but always understandable motives.

“Valley Of Saints,” directed by Musa Syeed, takes yet a different approach. Set almost entirely at Kashmir’s Dal Lake, it contrasts one young woman, Asifa (Neelofar Hamid), who studies the lake scientifically; and two young men, Gulzar and Afzal (Gulzar Ahmed Bhat and Mohammed Afzal), who’ve lived on the lake their entire lives.

Uprisings and government crackdowns made Dal Lake a dangerous place to be in 2010, when the movie was filmed. The director incorporated footage of actual demonstrations into the film. A government curfew and shutdown brought almost all commerce and movement around the lake to a standstill.

Boats, however, continue to roll through the water, and Afzal and Gulzar quickly find themselves in a strange, spontaneous culture which relies almost exclusively on boating. It’s a seller’s market for food and other goods, as those fortunate enough to be holding them at the crackdown dictate their own prices.

The two men find Asifa amusing at first, but Gulzar, finds that friendship is turning into love, on his side at least. They must decide, finally, how they feel about each other and what they might be willing to leave behind. Nature, society, and individual needs nest within each other quite lyrically. (end)

The 8th Annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival 2013 runs from Oct. 4—14  at SIFF Film Center, Seattle Center, Northwest Rooms just south of the Seattle Repertory Theater and next to the Vera Project; SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Avenue North in Seattle; and Mobius Hall, UW Bothell, 18428 110th Ave North East in Bothell. For prices, showtimes, and other information, visit http://ssaff.tasveer.org/2013/index.php.

Andrew Hamlin can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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